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tv   Peter Bergen The Rise and Fall of Osama Bin Laden  CSPAN  December 20, 2021 11:55pm-1:00am EST

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jfk airport he had a belly full of tropical parasites. the dominican republican native admits he was an unlikely candidate for the ivy league however eventually earned a phd in english from columbia university and went on to run the core curriculum through 2008 to 2019. the subtitle of the life story how the great books changed my life and why they mattered for a new generation. on this episode, booknotes plus is available on the c-span app or wherever you get your podcasts. renowned journalist. i'm the director for counterterrorism and organizations at facebook and
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former director [inaudible] moderator for today's program and now it is my pleasure to introduce the speaker, journalist, documentary producer, cnn national security analyst, vice president for global studies at the new america and author of the new book the rise and fall of osama bin laden. in the interest of full disclosure i'm proud to say i worked at the new america and am excited about today's he contins
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to inspire a new generation. today we will have a conversation about the foreign policy for the 21st century and the u.s. continues to battle. welcome, peter. >> it's great to be with you and i think that it would be fair to say we worked together for many years and it's great that we are doing what we are at facebook. >> thanks for taking the time, i enjoy the book. my question is you've written a number of books obviously and
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why this book right now lacks. >> a few dimensions. between the al qaeda and the taliban that is a good question and i realized for them 9/11 is just as an event as the korean war is for me. it's an event that will continue to influence to this day. so that's one dimension.
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from the files released and she herself will have her own book coming out in i spring of 22. every single letter received or sent this kind of what he was really thinking into the big discovery in those documents which was written in arabic and i think you know the leading
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scholar that journal and of course the big thing that was happening he was concerned he would get people to think that he was very delusional but for the readers of the books it's the extent for the rising and thinking of those that have phd's one child psychology and his adult son to have the meetings to discuss how they should position themselves and
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also he was considering on behalf of al qaeda with tens of thousands and saying it was more of an apology to say al qaeda has to be rebranded so we read a lot more about them during the trump administration. i had written and oral history in 2006 with the opportunity --
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>> one is the degree to which you explain you delve into him as a human being not d just a st of mythical leaders of al qaeda and going back this is a man that comes from a large wealthy family in saudi arabia and it almost feels like he was going to become the man that he was. how did he become the world's most infamous man when his brothers and sisters and parents
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there's a lot of books written about hitler and rosenblum and questions about hitler and at the end of the day the last time we had a conversation the more he looked into the cases i often found the fact they themselves were not particularly expert. there were cultural reasons they might get involved. [inaudible] if he was asked why did you do it, he didn't have an articulate explanation.
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if you decide to launch 9/11, there are innocent spectators and there's a certain element [inaudible] and i document the process in the case. >> let me try to get at this question. are there aes couple of specifis and i guess i'm asking for counterfactual but what are some ofof those choices where he migt have gone left? >> he only had one meeting with his father his entire life. he had 54 siblings.
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his dad died in a crash and if thathad a big impact on him. he f told his family and the family journal he wouldn't be able to study the koran as a result of his father and that when he becomes a rebellious teenager and even in the 1970s saudi arabia demand it's not typical teenage behavior. he was a rebellious teenager, that was sort of the basis. then of course the invasion by
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the soviet union and by ayatollah how many and the attack on mecca by the religious zealots and travel to pakistan within two weeks of the soviet invasion and he was going back and forth raising money and raised millions of dollars for the afghan regime and this was a transformational moment he went into afghanistan [inaudible] he published the book in 91 even
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though it's sympathetic so another transformational moment al qaeda's base became the land of the group and they were formalizing the founding of al qaeda in a civilized manner.
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anybody taking notes knowsng tht sthe notetaker [inaudible] butt the contemporaneous documents bin laden is quite anti-american and in the delivering speeches then threatening saudi arabia and offered his troops. he he had a number of projects which at the time there was a kind of quasi- marxist state.
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the soviets had been defeated. every military engagement it was a fiasco. 9/11 was a tactical success but a failure and in this militarization he had a big ego or something. this contributed to the public understanding of al qaeda.
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clarifying that era in the 1980s were insignificant and were not a major component, yet that experience was whatever bin laden did with his the potential support and then the point you made about a strategic failure and mistake on al qaeda.fa can you talk about those two pieces because i think that it's ia challenge. >> they sit on the battlefield the military insignificance is correct at most at any given moment afghans fighting the soviets with 175,000.
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they don't need a lot of help with no military experience. he was an egyptian police man and so there were some people that did understand will. the 9/11 attack like pearl harbor was attacked with more strategic and it backfired.
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comparing this to the soviet union. it backfired spectacularly. some people who believed the post fecteau judgment. >> after 9/11, you know, he was surrounded and its american
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choices. explain what happened and that decision-making in this process of withdrawing from afghanistan there was a moment in tora bora 20 years ago now the sort of immediate goal after 9/11 and finding a bin laden might have been achieved and was not. >> it would have been harder to continue the afghan war one
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interesting document is the battle of tora bora and at the e account of what bin laden did and when he escaped and the time the reason that is so interesting there was a time difference between theif united states and afghanistan so almost exactly at this moment donald
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rumsfeld was doing a lengthy discussion that were 800 pages and then he did a briefing that day. they were is escaping the battlefield and the reason i say this uncertainty they led to the forces at tora bora.
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[inaudible] an area at the time there were things we didn't try. it's 6 miles by 6 miles long.
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the main thing is we just didn't try. despite the interpretation. if you go back on the public record contemporaneously because of course he was. >> with the refocusingg on iraq and the immediate perpetrators of 9/11 and get, al qaeda was dodisrupted tremendously in the attack on afghanistan and they
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conducted a number of attacks and the affiliates had grown and had at times split off in different directions. bin laden reminds us not far from pakistani west point to what extent while he is there in the estate house what strings did he have to pull? there are two ways of looking. if you are running a business
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and relying on messages it's hard to run a business because the messages get lost. people ignore the messages and he was using the method but it was hard to micromanage so he did the best he could don't try to set up the islamic state, do focus on the united states, so
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to the top deputy to distribute those orders you can make the argument he was micromanaging the organization and you could the argument that it was hard for him to manage because he had to kind of communicate that. he had a good line in the book [inaudible] but there were things that were completely preposterous yet he was moving these divisions around europe so
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it's a complicated picture trying to micromanage things. >> often times the only inside folks have is what these people say and what they say may be you deeply divorced from reality. it doesn't mean you can blow up the eiffel tower. i think it's a stark reminder for one of the risks frankly of some of the analysis we've seen on statements these folks make. >> that is so true.
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you could say things that produce ace reaction but in the end it wasn't heroic and we talkeded a little bit about the certified with al qaeda and peoples attention to bin laden and if you look at the polling data it tracks with iraq and pakistan along with the approval for suicide bombing and i think
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eventually it was written by president bush's speechwriter to the grave of discarded lies and i think that is a wonderful line by president george w. bush and we may be getting to that point but it doesn't mean that his ideas will have aa huge impact. he made it very simple if they
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withdraw the support, everything will change. it turned out not to be true because he didn't achieve. he would be delighted of course. we are going to have a split screen. if you look at the successes they are making the calculation.
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whether they are able to do that they are armed and ready to fight for their home territory. my wife said i didn't know he was still alive. they are serious fighters so bin laden of course would say i got what i wanted. it took 20 years. a. >> this is a critical question but i want to stay with al qaeda
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a little bit first. what is the future of al qaeda. as a potential leader how do you see that organization being able to function? we still hear from them occasionally. they still conduct attacks. does al qaeda have legs without osama bin laden? >> one of the things, and i can include myself in h this, it tus out they had no role in the
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attacks against the united states and no role focused on egypt and somebody has done a survey and i think egypt is like number 29 on the list. he already spent six months in prisonso right in the middle of the planning attacks on the embassies in africa and they use them as a windowdressing because he didn't play an important part in al qaeda but he managed to
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sweep underground. he would be a more serious contender. now al qaeda is a group in east asia and sometimes you may recall al qaeda and gammon controlled parts of the country -- at the end of the day in the bay area and washington, d.c.
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the answer is it's highly unlikely. there's only been one in the united states and that was by a militaryhr officer.
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troops in iraq from december 2011 then three days later the administration was bombing i suspect that there is something interesting that whole campaign that to get the prisoners released with the peace negotiations with the taliban but then looking at the taliban so there was the
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interest with different organizations that are using three prisoners in the sense that they are not fighting the taliban or isis. from the iraqiat national army from that isis campaign. >> and a some of the questions that folks are asking that 20 years of afghanistan and to do these sorts of things and then than a matter of weeks or months it is crumbling.
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it if it is good after bad? that is different than president obama president trump and president biden. meant to do the cost risk-benefit analysis. and then from the following with the 75 years after the armistice and then you have 25000 troops in southou korea from one of the poorest countries in the world now it is one of the richest. there are some similarities that i look back at south
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korea with the totalitarian democracy for a long time it's not like a democratic state that they are now. and afghanistan is a perfect democracy and then those discussions with the taliban. and the between the mpn government and thailand. and then peace negotiations from the united states. so that has been a messaging problem in the sense december 1t 2009.e
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and that is the effect on the taliban and pakistan with that aspect of empire and have some interest in afghanistan but that is preventing the other al qaeda and that they have received that then just in time that the population of kabul was 500,000 but now nobody knows the number 7 million. there was no internet service
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no economy. and that taliban did become again. but then afghanistan is onene of the youngest countries the rotating 70 percent is under the age of 25. and there is no great nostalgia. i so they are not the civil war. but also look at those militias.
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and from the taliban. instead of them taking over the entire country it makes it look like a croquet match. and then to not stay there. and then for a country that igseems insignificant it carries of american foreign policy. >> when you are going to the documents, and as the us government help to understood.
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and that relationship between al qaeda and the taliban now? and then al qaeda would not have done that. and then to have discourse al qaeda would not. >> with the taliban peacein negotiations. and then to be on negotiating table in doha and of those
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sales and then here is the official report. and then also across afghanistan but al qaeda has a much bigger in the united states throughout the middle east. >> andof then just try to summarize. and with that religious
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fundamentalist. and it's not that type of the statement. and then to share between the al qaeda and the taliban. >> and then tied up to al qaeda.
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and then to al qaeda doing the frontlines today. but then to make a mistake because a rationalut actor. and then to separate themselves from al qaeda butnt that evidences it's not that true. mentor that piece of negotiation but today with the peace negotiation with the afghanan government.
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>> i could pick your brain on afghanistan all day. >> but it is interesting. do you have any idea why over palestine quick. >> that such a great question. i asked bin laden that question directly. he didn't have a good answer for that. and that he hadn't even already consider the question some trying to do my best to answer for bin laden but for some reason he started to think about palestine as a
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teenager and then focusing on the issue and why he didn't i could add another point because america is a jewish target because after asking after 9/11 and then he started the conspiracy theory that it was a few days after 9/11 because in the answer of the prophet mohammed who killed that you need says that they are out to kill jews. so it is profound but he
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didn't attack israel itself and it's a question he really couldn't answer when he was asked. >> there are a couple of questions here that point to our politics in the united states of terrorists that's domestically. of international terrorist groups in the audience may not know how do you compare those differences and then do we ever get bin laden from american bin laden?
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and i believe there's 107 people i believe that is very close although the numbers are not precise but of course he's been very steady in the united states but in the 1970s with 100 hijackings in the united stateses and those that detonated 75 bombs but that is apparently fairly constant feature. and then with the american bin laden. and in those t training camps in
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oregon and those organizations that would be very hard to do with those rising extremist and those who have interest in what we are tracking and then to that conservative methodology we don't include it and those attacks to people
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in rwanda in 2016. but then we just came up with this recently with that insurrection. and with that government and then the enemies of the state they are legitimate targets. because it is a real issue. >> there are some who argue
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because there is a o book coming out where basically i think is connecting the process of fighting the war onn terror and itss impact on domestic civil discourse and it is undermining their own political norms. what is the impact of our dedication and focus the last 20 years? does it have an impact on who we are? >> yes. i think it does i have read the manuscript i believe everything he says it's hard to explain the allies of trump because if you go down 2015 or 2016 americans were polled on the issue of terrorism and the
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answer the question if you were being in the victim of terrorism and it was the highest number since after 9/11 because the basis and the attack in rwanda and the religious parliament in california and then they be headed many journalist and there was a huge amount of news coverage that trump came up with the idea and it made sense from a factual point of view but then if you just ask republicans but it was able to use that and he didn't really talk about it i think he could
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have made more of an issue within that 2016 presidential campaign terrorism was a the to dogn terrorism was a the better than the taliban stopped so it was the solution in search of our problem with everything has to suffer the
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consequences that then he tried to tap in to the site the terrorism was very real in 2015 and 2016. >> i want to come back. we only have a few minutes left to the notion of the whole picture as a terrorist mastermind that he was there living with his wives and kids and bodyguards. tell us about his life there and explain what american ndintelligence analysts and how they attacked this compound
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what is the consideration they have to go through as they think of an assault on a compound with a bunch of people in children quick. >> that's everybody expected to see and they didn't know how many people you u said 25 ultimately there were 27 there were two other kids under the age of three so then it was picked up by the new york post but there was just too much on the lines so when then they serve then they say oh but the
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headline was up for review and with those attacks on the right and that they change the headline. but the point is to say it doesn't mean that he wasn't a nice guy. he was somewhat nice to his girlfriend that doesn't mean he was a good guy either. but where the mass murderer nbin laden could be nice to his family or his wives in hierarchical because of the education. but then to be compatible that is crazy because they know those are carried out by humans so that if you
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understand everything then you forget everything and as one of the few people to change the course of history and with that explanation of who he was. >> and the intelligence analyst with the party package. >> and then the fact in the intelligence committee they said that's terrible but this is bin laden could that's exactly the way he does things
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with multiple wives of their own apartments and multiple kids the exact same way he lived in afghanistan so thisti was evidence because it was entirely circumstantial but they served as evidence. >> after his body was dumped into thehe arabian sea, there was a moment of almost disbelief in washington. and decision-making by president obama of how to announce that he had been killed. talk about that process because in decision-making a think it is important for one of our only chance is for the united states to shape that legacy and the understanding. what is that process like?
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>> that he really got the timing right 100? a month and it was a very dangerous job and then they said we know we had a really bad argument and then to be in july 2001. but then it turns out the houses and the other guys name. melissa obama get into that position and it was a very complicated process.
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and during the cuban missile crisis that with those presidents to make information with that cuban missile crisis for kennedy they do make those decisions without knowing the facts. but then there is a big discussion and then the discussion was 30 percent or 60 percent. and then eventually they just cut it off and say it is 50/50 so with those discussions with
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mathematical rigor with those smart people so he made a decision of whether president is supposed to do you don't normally make those difficult decisionsfo with perfect information but it's in perfect information. and then in the textbook case obviously the president made the right decision. >> in the book you in the book and what happens in history has that happened with osama bin laden? >> i think it well. they are still on the agency attached to the terrorism center and they said about the
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and talking and then they said no which was an infamous terrorist group in the seventies generally she was saying it for a fact that then his influence on history and as a failure at the time signing up the figure that he ndwas. >> with the cnn national security analyst vice president for globall studies and fellow at n


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